City Schedules Special Workshop on Sale of Congress Square Plaza; 9/3

By Carol McCracken  (Post # 1,512)

The Portland City Council has announced that it will hold a workshop meeting to review a proposal to sell a portion of Congress Square Plaza (f/k/a/ The Eastland Hotel) on Tuesday, September 3, 2013. The meeting begins at 5:30 pm and will be held at City Council Chambers, at City Hall.  The proposal is to sell two-thirds of the Plaza to RP Portland Building, LLC for the construction of an event center for the Westin Harbor View Hotel that is scheduled to open in early December 2013.  The meeting is open to the public, but no public testimony will be taken at this time.

Rather, public testimony will be taken on Monday, September 9th at 7 pm at the regularly scheduled City Council meeting.  The City Council is expected to vote on the proposal at that meeting.

The announcement of this special workshop comes on the heels of a press release issued by the Friends of Congress Square Park on August 28th.  The Friends announced its intent to file a Citizens’ Initiative that will expand the protection of public park and open space throughout the city of Portland.  The proposed Initiative will establish stronger requirements for the sale or development of Portland’s parks and open spaces, not just Congress Square Park, by strengthening the Land Bank Commission ordinance.

In 1999, the City Council unanimously adopted the Land Bank Commission ordinance which established protections for certain City-owned properties deemed to have conservation and open space values.  The guiding principle behind this odinance is that certain City lands enhance our quality of life and there should be restrictions on their potential future development or sale. One key protection is the requirement of both Land Bank Commission approval and six votes on the City Council for the sale or development of a Land Bank property, according to a media release from the Friends.  For more information about the Land Bank Commission, see http://wwwportlandmainegov/landbankhtm.

However, the Friends believe that the Land Bank ordinance is inadequate and wants to make changes in it.  The Friends are curently looking at details and specific options for strengthening the ordinance and will share the results most likely this week.

The Friends are looking for Portland registered voters to assist them  in circulating the CI petition.  Please email: turekfrank@gmailcom